Tuesday, May 6, 2014

ARC Review: Strange and Ever After by Susan Dennard


Title: Strange and Ever After (Something Strange and Deadly, #3) 

Author: Susan Dennard

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Release Date: July 22nd, 2014

From the first moment we met parasol-wielding Eleanor in Something Strange and Deadly, I've been a fan of this series. While A Darkness Strange and Lovely clearly suffered from Middle Book Syndrome, Strange and Ever After most definitely did not. Out of all the conclusions I've read lately, this installment feels the most conclusive. Dennard not only notches up the pace of this final novel, but she also heightens the risk and danger. As such, Strange and Ever After is a non-stop, page-flipping adventure, incorporating elements from the previous two novels into an explosive finale that may not necessarily satisfy, but definitely will not be forgotten.

Strange and Ever After starts out in Paris, quickly moves to Marseille, and finally ends up in Egypt. When the novel opens, Allison has just arrived from Philadelphia, bearing the unfortunate news that Eleanor's mother has passed away. Stuck on Daniel's hot-air balloon with nothing but her grief, worry for her best friend Jie, and anger at Marcus, Eleanor slowly begins pushing everyone away. Yet, there is hardly time to dwell on emotions for Marcus is becoming more and more powerful by the minute and if Eleanor ever wants the hope of a normal life, she will have to stop him...before he stops her.

While Eleanor's motives and personality in A Darkness Strange and Lovely remained obscure and changed, in Strange and Ever After I was finally able to understand her agency. Eleanor's relationships don't start out in a very strong place and, more often than not, she is readily testy. Not only has Eleanor lost the trust of Ollie, her demon, but her relationship with Daniel is fragile and uncertain for he dislikes her abilities as a necromancer. With Allison on board, Eleanor's situation is no easier and her heart, mind, and emotions pull her in different directions. One of the best aspects of this novel, though, lies in the fact that Eleanor grows to open up to those around her and carry meaningful conversations with them. While she still struggles to control her abilities, she is determined not to succumb to darkness and maintain the relationships she shares with others - which she does.

While Eleanor and Daniel's romance truly took off in this installment, with plenty of swoon-worthy moments and touching dialogues, the relationship at the forefront was that between Ollie and Eleanor. I couldn't get a grasp Ollie's character in A Darkness Strange and Lovely as I was unsure whether or not to trust him. Even in this installment, he is exasperating, pushing Eleanor to her breaking point at times. But as we grow to understand Ollie, to see life from his perspective, the friendship between him and Eleanor becomes ever-stronger. I grew to love his character by the end and, in some ways; he even eclipses Daniel (but never in my heart).

With such a large host of characters and emotional ties, Strange and Ever After never falters in its plot. The Spirit Hunters are constantly on the move, uncovering pieces of information about Marcus and the Old Man in a timely fashion. Moreover, I really enjoyed the change of setting from one novel to the next. Dennard has mastered the art of world-building and the richness of the reality she has created, as well as the mythological references that cropped up, made this story such a delight. Even the final showdown with Marcus is brilliantly written, proving that every victory has its sacrifices. We've seen Eleanor up against Marcus before and though she is stronger, he is still a formidable opponent. It is only with the help of others that she is truly able to put an end to his evil once and for all.

Where this story faltered for me, though, is in the unexpected death of a main character. I anticipate and look forward to character deaths in a concluding novel because of the emotional upheaval they bring. With this death, though, I felt blindsided and surprised. It's a death I struggled to rationalize and cope with 
because it was so unfair and while I have qualms about it - particularly regarding its necessity and the fact that it represents that the character in question never saw themselves as worthwhile - it also makes for a bittersweet, albeit surprising, conclusion. I'm not sure how I expected this series to end, but I'm glad it's done. Dennard's debut trilogy has had its ups and downs and while I wouldn't recommend against it, I'm not sure I'd shove it upon a friend either. Nevertheless, I look forward to whatever Dennard has up her sleeve next. I may harbor mixed feelings towards this series as a whole, but towards her writing? None at all.

23 comments:

  1. I've not read this series after I read Something Strange and Deadly and I've not been planning to read any of the books in the series. But I can say that I once again regained interest in this book due to your review. I just hope I'd love it more this time tho :D

    Jules @ Jules Bookshelf

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  2. I am terrible at keeping my curiosity at bay, and so, I know which death you are referring to. It's mainly for that reason why I am reluctant to pick this book up now, even if the rest is well done. I just know it'll leave a bitter taste in my mouth. However, I am a fan of Dennard's and enjoyed the first two books quite a bit, and will definitely be checking out her new series when it releases. I'm glad this was a solid conclusion for you overall, Keertana. Gorgeous review as always! :)

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  3. I saw this one on Edelweiss and I was very tempted to request it because of the cover which is just gorgeous. I've heard so very good reviews for this series but like with many series for me, it's to keep myself interested in something if the sequel didn't live up to it. However, I'm glad it ended well for you. That's the annoying thing if it feels incomplete and have loose ends. Lovely review, Keertana! :)

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  4. It reminds me of some other cover and book

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  5. i haven't read any of these, but that's great you love the author's writing even if you don't LOVE these books. It bodes well for her future writing and you. :)

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  6. The world building in this series sounds exquisite Keertana, and one that I would thoroughly enjoy. It's a shame that one of the main characters had to be killed off :( But I'm glad that you were able to enjoy this book overall! Fab review!

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  7. It sounds odd to say, but finding out a major character dies and it makes for such a surprising and bittersweet end actually has me more interested in catching up on this series. I've been curious to read it, but all the middling book two reviews turned me off. Now I think my interest has been reignited. I'm glad you don't regret reading the series, even if it might not be a hearty recommendation. Fantastic thoughtful review!

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  8. I've not read this series yet, but it's unfortunate that a relevant character was killed off. It makes me wary of it now. :/

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  9. I agreeeeeee . I love dennard's writing and I love her imaginative worldbuilding. Sad that you have had problems with the dead of a main character. I'm so exited for this one

    Lovely review, keertana

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  10. Oh, I am sorry that a main character was killed off. And that it makes it bittersweet. I can only wonder which character it will be. I am glad though that you like her writing and will read her other works. Great review!

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  11. Nick told me all about this main character death Keertana and I just can't. I can't read books where a vital character dies, I need an HEA after I've battled through an entire series! I'm sad because I really enjoyed this series but unfortunately won't be able to finish it. Still looking forward to what she writes next though!

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  12. oh I think I just spoiled this series for myself, but that's okay. Who knows when I will actually get to read it. I am glad you liked the conclusion.

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  13. I just love the covers of this series! I haven't tried it yet but I heard a lot about it and I'm curious. This one sounds good but well I confess it's always difficult when the author decides to make die a character, it would make me anxious... thanks for the review!

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  14. Um... the main character???? Oh wow! Even though you had mixed feelings about the series, I am curious about it... even more so after this review. Oh this whole thing just went on my wishlist!

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  15. This sounds fantastic, but the fact that the main character's death is so unnecessary makes me a little bit nervous to pick this one up. Nonetheless, though, everything else sounds AMAZING! I'm going to wait to hear what other reviewers have to say, but so far I'm definitely going for it! Thanks so much for sharing, and, as always, BRILLIANT review! <3

    ~ Zoe @ The Infinite To-Read Shelf

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  16. That cover is gorgeous! I read the first book and really enjoyed it, but never continued with the series after seeing some lackluster reviews on the second book. I don't like the idea of a main character death that you didn't agree with. If it was Eleanor or Daniel I would NOT be happy at all. I'm glad that you seemed to like this overall, and that Dennard's writing impressed you, but I'm very hesitant to pick this up. Wonderful review. Keertana!

    Also, I'm thrilled to hear you enjoyed It Happened One Wedding. It was different from JJ's usual but it really worked. Can't wait to see your thoughts. :)

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  17. I've only skimmed this review as I haven't read the series but I love the covers! The dresses are gorgeous and the covers are consistent. Will be putting this higher on my TBR list.

    Lovely review, Keertana! <33

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  18. I'm torn on this series, Keertana. I love the sound of the novels past the first installment, but your mention of a main character dying leaves me a bit worried that it's one I simply won't be able to come to terms with. Regardless, you have a way with words, my friend, and I'm glad to see the romance, at least, worked really well this time around! Lovely review :)

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  19. Swoon-worthy romance and touching dialogue? That's enough to kick me in the pants for not even starting this series yet! Boo, Wendy, boooooo.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

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  20. I was always on the fence about reading this series because it sounded interesting, but it still had few things I wasn't sure about.
    Great review.

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  21. We've talked about this series as well, and I feel like I dodged a bullet in not picking it up before I found out about the end. That would have destroyed me. It's sad when a series doesn't hold up after the first book, as it seems this didn't for you, even excluding the end. I'm curious about what else this author writes, but wary. As soon as an author is willing to go the non HEA route, I get nervous about what else they'll write. Thanks for the honest review!

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  22. I've never really been tempted by this series, I've always assumed it wasn't for me, but the fact that you thought this was a good final book, despite the shocking death, makes me wonder if I should give this series a go now that all three books are out

    Mands @ The Bookish Manicurist

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  23. I have loved this series from the beginning as well and really enjoyed this one, however sad it was. It really did have a good solid ending that was very much realistic.

    Great review!

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